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Union Leaders at JEA Speak Out About Possible Sale

JEA building.
JEA's headquarters building in downtown Jacksonville is pictured.

President of Professional Employees Association (PEA) Randy Hilton, and the president of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Valerie Gutierrez  (IBEW) spoke out against the idea of selling JEA on Wednesday’s First Coast Connect.

It's not just about the employees, said Gutierrez. It's also about the ratepayers, the community and the impact that JEA has on the community. "We just want people to understand that rates will probably go up if it is sold,” she said.

Related: Listen to the First Coast Connect Interviews

The city is currently on a fact finding mission to evaluate whether it might be more beneficial to sell the public utility than hold on to it.

Hilton believes there would be value lost in a sale that wouldn’t be determined until it is was too late to reverse things.

“The long term value of JEA, as an inheritance to the citizens of Jacksonville, will not be there if it is sold,” he said.

JEA brings more to the table than what a dollar value would bring said Gutierrez. “We do community service,” asserting that JEA is quicker to respond in severe weather than a private utility would likely be.   

Hilton referred a report of the American Public Power Associations report called The Future of Your City.

Promises made by private utilities in privatization efforts rarely go beyond two years, Hilton said the report showed.

Hilton said that JEA needs to develop a vision for the future, adding its leaders should think about combined businesses and endeavors.  He said it's time for the city to pull back from the idea of privatizing the utility.

Mark Wray is a WJCT News intern for summer 2018.